International Student Council elects new president, vice president


Photo: Karuna Ang/Iowa State Daily

Nidhi Shah, left, current president, Ahmad Al-Saygh, newly elected president, Wiwi Sanusi Tjandra, newly elected vice president and Sarini Mapalagama, current vice president of ISC, talk about creating a more diverse committee for next year’s International Student Council, Tuesday, March 8, at the ISC Office in Memorial Union.

John Lonsdale

The International Students and Scholars Office announced the names of the president- and vice president-elect for the International Student Council on Feb. 22.

International Student Council elected Ahmad Al-Saygh, senior in community and regional planning, as president and Wiwi Tjandra, senior in finance, as vice-president starting fall semester 2011.

An umbrella organization for international students and scholars and 40 multicultural and international organizations, the International Student Council serves 3,000 members and is constantly pushing for international student awareness from various topics including promoting diversity on and off campus.

Elections were held at a general assembly meeting where votes from all of the organizations were cast for one candidate in each criterion. The elections’ format was to have candidates present who they were, future goals for the organization and plans for the other organizations that fall under International Student Council.

Current International Student Council president Nidhi Shah, graduate in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, and vice president Sarini Mapalagama, junior in industrial engineering, have been working with Al-Saygh and Tjandra on preparations for next year’s cabinet change.

“I’ve worked with both of them this year,” Shah said. “They’re great leaders and bring the [International Student Council] to the next level. I can see them running around and working all ready for the new cabinet.”

Mapalagama said the committee for next year has made council proud by doing more than what was expected of them.

“I know [Tjandra] personally,” said Mapalagama. “Right now, he’s the treasurer of [International Student Council]. I think [if] he manages his time and organizes himself, he can do a great job.”

“I know he’s capable of doing a very great job because you have to be able to multitask in this position and meet deadlines because so many things [are] going on at once … listen to others and accept everyone’s ideas and make good decisions, you will be able to carry on International Student Council events well.”

Events are one of the large responsibilities that the organization and Mapalagama and Shah prepare for during the year. I-Week, International Food Fair and other events put on by the 40 organizations are usually hosted by International Student Council.

Mapalagama said events are very important to the goals of the council’s members and to Iowa State because it is a great way to learn about other cultures; adding that it would be helpful if more American students would participate in the events.

“Not only me, but [International Student Council] as a whole, the main goal is to join [with] other student groups and share other cultures among others, so that’s the main reason we try to organize events,” she said.

Shah has worked with the council for about three years and formed the Humanitarian Awareness Committee with former council president Rachel Gan a little more than a year ago.

She said she has had a busy year juggling her life as a graduate student and being the president of International Student Council.

“It has been challenging, but at the same time, very joyful,” Shah said. “Challenging in terms of having time to balance extracurricular activities with academic and research work, but I had a great time and great leaders within the team itself.

“I could trust my cabinet members with what they did. Although it was definitely challenging, it was a fun ride with all the committee members because of the communication we had and how much we wanted to give back [at] the end to take [International Student Council] to the next level.”

One thing Shah wants Al-Saygh and Tjandra to continue to do is to increase collaboration between student organizations and committees at Iowa State, especially through the council.

Shah wants next year’s cabinet to bridge the gap between international and American students by improving the current collaborations they are working on and to increase diversity on the new cabinet, which International Student Council has recently done with the spring semester by recruiting two American students.

Shah had a few last words of wisdom for the two stepping in to her and Mapalagama’s positions on how to involve the ISU community in International Student Council.

“This is the golden rule for every student,” she said. “People are really open to experiencing something different as long as you show them that there is something interesting and there is something fun or something that they will gain some knowledge about.”

“Initially, people are afraid to try something new, but if you show them it’s not something you should be afraid they should be open to trying something new.”

Al-Saygh started as a volunteer for the council in 2007 and worked his way up to volunteer coordinator his sophomore year where he was presented the Unsung Hero Award by Tom Hill, vice president of Student Affairs.

“Dr. Tom Hill motivated me [and] said you can do better,” Al-Saygh said.

This year, Al-Saygh is following in the footsteps of Shah as the Humanitarian Awareness Director.

Next year, he said he would like to initiate a focus on campus diversity and spread International Student Council awareness across the ISU campus with the multicultural and international student organizations.

“Can you name any international student in [the Government of the Student Body]?” Al-Saygh said. “We kind of need a voice, especially [in] GSB.”

Tjandro remembers Al-Saygh from the International Student Orientation the duo attended before the fall 2009 semester.

“I remember this tall guy,” Tjandro said.

The two laughs together in unison and Al-Saygh finally recalls Tjandro’s story.

“[I told my group,] if you can say my name, don’t call me the tall guy,” Al-Saygh said.

After they stopped laughing, Al-Saygh and Tjandro spoke about how teamwork will be the key to their success for next year.

“The main responsibility of the vice president [is to] be there whenever the president can’t be,” Tjandro said.

Al-Saygh made a joke about how Tjandro is going to have to just skip his exams next year and the laughter continued.

“You have to work as a team … this is something I want to continue, something I want to grow in [and] bring people together,” Tjandro said.